ADVOCATE: Building a Legacy of Health

by Zinta Aistars

Growing up, Kay Rose watched her mother’s health habits, and now her two teenage sons are watching hers.

“I lost my mother when I was 23,” said Rose. “But I watched her struggle with health problems most of my life.

My mom suffered a stroke when she was in her 40s, and I was only 3 or 4 years old at that time. I grew up with the knowledge that my mom was a stroke survivor.”

Rose’s mother suffered reoccurrences of mini-strokes and ultimately had to have bypass surgery.

“She never woke up from surgery,” Rose said, her voice catching. “She had a fatal stroke on the operating table.”

Rose’s own health habits have become a part of her daily routine. She knows her habits, from what goes on her plate to her workouts, have a big effect on her health as well as the health of her growing boys.

Rose began her career as an administrative associate at American Heart Association in Grand Rapids last April. She has been volunteering for the Go Red For Women campaign for five years. Prior to her job at AHA, she worked at Weight Watchers,
where she learned what a difference a few changes to her daily habits could make on her overall health.

“I’d been overweight all of my life by about 50 pounds or so,” she said. “My cholesterol numbers were elevated, but when I got to about age 40, my blood pressure started creeping up, too. I had had readings of about 120 over 80, but then they got to be around 150 over 100. My doctor wasn’t overly concerned yet, but he didn’t want me to take blood pressure medication because I was already taking medication for my cholesterol.”

Her doctor encouraged her to take her health into her own hands. He suggested she watch her diet and begin a regular exercise routine. It was a wake-up call for Rose, and she decided to take his advice to heart.

“I didn’t want my sons to watch my health deteriorate the way I had watched my mom’s,” Rose said. She joined Weight Watchers and started on an exercise program called EcoTrek, a year-round program based on doing workouts out in nature, regardless of weather.

Rose lost 25 pounds through Weight Watchers and has lost 75 pounds overall. She has maintained her weight loss now for five years. Her doctor monitored her blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, and both went down. She was able to stop taking medication for cholesterol.

“I’ve learned that to lose weight and keep it off, you don’t go on a diet,” said Rose. “You make a lifestyle change. It has to be cohesive — healthy eating and healthy levels of activity. I learned to identify my triggers for overeating, and now I monitor myself and make smarter choices.”

Rose has enrolled in a local yoga studio, takes walks over her lunch hour at work, and continues to explore different kinds of exercise to keep from ever getting bored – even belly dancing. She is as likely to take a kickboxing class as to twirl a hula hoop. She meditates to keep down stress levels and continues as an EcoTrekker.

The best part? Rose has noticed that her teen sons are following in her steps.

“They’re more receptive now to trying new things,” she smiled. “I shop at farmers markets now, and when I bring home fresh vegetables, they’re more likely to taste new foods. So I think about my kids when I think about my own health. My choices affect my life, but they affect the lives of my children, too.”

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